Friday, February 5, 2016


I have a friend who has always been unusually sensitive to color.  We once went to a museum show that was vibrantly colorful.  Upon entering the gallery, my friend looked briefly euphoric and disoriented; she then inhaled raggedly and quickly turned around to exit the gallery.  Outside, she told me that sometimes color slams her psyche – it wasn’t a bad thing, but it could literally take her breath away.  Over the course of the next 45 minutes, we went in and out of the show so that she could titrate the experience of what seemed to be a mixture of ecstasy and excess.  She loved the show.  The colors were amazing.  She simply needed to absorb them a little more slowly. 

At the time, I was baffled by this experience – I’ve certainly never forgotten it.  Her experience was clearly genuine.  But it was so alien to my own relationship with color that I could not fathom what it must be like to “see” color in that way, to live in a world where color was so much a part of one’s physical experience.

Many years later, the stable reality upon which I had built my professional life and identity crumbled.  In addition to the obliteration of my work life, I was physically sick and emotionally battered.  Most profoundly, this all became manifest in the loss of my inner voice. Only when my voice went silent did I realize that I had always maintained a running narrative that buoyed me in life. This narrative wasn’t particularly plot driven.  In fact, it was more a habit I had developed in childhood to make a story out of moments that struck me throughout the day.  So, for example, the sun filtering through leaves on a spring day could transport me to a “story” of happiness that gathered together childhood fragments into a distilled narrative completeness that was as much sensory and it was verbal.  Over the course of my life, I had repeated certain narrative fragments to myself so many times that they were like actual places I could visit: warm spaces that were fully furnished and well-lit.  When this world went silent, when these warm narrative spaces were shut off from me, I felt untethered and hollow. 

It was in that silent place that I discovered color.  Sitting in my study placing colored glass on old windows began as an activity to distract me from the hollow feeling that haunted me – like doing crossword puzzles.  Hours would pass as I worked a piece and I was free from anxiety and the need to have a clear purpose.   Eventually, I had moments when I found myself beaming with delight, truly transported by color and shape to a kind of happiness that was entirely separate from language and narrative. I could not have told you much about what elevated me to this new joy – it was visual.  I began to see shapes and color at night before I fell asleep.  I could listen to music and color would vibrate and shift in front of my eyes as if dancing to the music. I found myself aware of a way of seeing and being in the world that I had never known – something akin to my friend’s experience of color in the museum so many years before.  My mind expands.  The way that color visits me in quiet times is healing and sustaining.  It helps me to be patient so that I might understand what has had happened to me. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Making Art and Caring for My Soul

"It seems to me that the desire to make art produces an ongoing experience of longing, a restlessness sometimes, but not inevitably, played out romantically, or sexually. Always there seems something ahead, the next poem or story, visible, at least, apprehensible, but unreachable. To perceive it at all is to be haunted by it; some sound, some tone, becomes a torment—the poem embodying that sound seems to exist somewhere already finished. "
Louise Gluck

I am compelled to make things.  Over 25 years of academic production and teaching literature and writing at state universities, I have regularly turned to my knitting needles, my sewing machine, or, more recently, to the exquisite pleasure of covering walls, objects, and sculptures with mosaics.  During periods of greatest intellectual demand, productivity, or stress I will lie awake at night designing mosaics, fabric collage, or garments.  I cannot rest properly until I have satisfied these deep longings to create with color and texture.   It is as though the demands of my intellectual life require a proportionate amount of time for making art: there is an essential balance between the cerebral work I do and the more intuitive, associative, creative work I do.
These days, I have a “restless longing” to make stained glass mosaics. This longing will surge up out of an image or idea; pushing at my daily mental chatter, it will urge me to follow. Small creative activities can sustain me for a while, can keep my longing in check; but after a while, the pressure is too great and I must make the thing itself.  I must follow the image.  And then I am tireless in my pursuit of the vision that “haunts” me.  I will be at work for hours and not miss the time; I will eat as I work, cut every finger, make my back stiff and sore – I must make manifest the thing that was always there on the edge of my vision. 

Thich Naht Hanh once said, “The practice of a healer, therapist, teacher or any helping professional should be directly toward his or herself first, because if the helper is unhappy, he or she cannot help many people.”  When I feel my teaching is stale or stiff, when I am worn-down by the challenges of teaching in a world that does not honor contemplation and deep, transformative learning, I am reminded that it is time to practice my art and care for my soul.
        And yet, the same generative energy that compels me to make objects also feeds (and is fed by) my teaching.   In class, I challenge students to move between intellectual applications and more associative “play,” pulling them into exploratory and yet rigorous conversations.   Sometimes these conversations teeter on the edge of brilliance; sometimes they crash to the ground.  But sometimes we achieve the magic symmetry of creative and intellectual inquiry that leads to extraordinary insight.  On these occasions, I feel the same energized elation that I feel after a day of art making.  For me, teaching is one of the places where the gifts of intellect and intuition come together in a collaborative and creative endeavor.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A flyer for the upcoming show featuring my windows and my brother's paintings.  If you're in the Boston area, I hope to see you there! 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Work and an Upcoming Show

I've been busy making art and enjoying a summer teaching schedule for the past few months.  I have a show coming up in September and October at the gallery in the University Lutheran Church in Harvard Square -- stayed tuned for news of the opening and more!
Meanwhile, here are some of the pieces I've finished. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Show at Three Stones Gallery in West Concord, MA

I'll have a few new windows in this show -- sadly, I will not be at the opening on Friday :(  

Check out the show, though. It's sure to be a good one!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

And this moves me....

Opening the Heart Through Ecstatic Poetry: Coleman Barks with David Darling at TEDxUGA

The blurb that goes with this YouTube video:

"For 30 years, until retirement in 1997, Dr. Coleman Barks taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Georgia. As a professor emeritus, Dr. Barks still resides in Athens and writes and publishes under his own imprint, Maypop Books, as well as HarperCollins, the University of Georgia Press, and others. In addition to several poetry collections and books, Dr. Barks is the author of numerous translations of Rumi and has been a student of Sufism since 1977. His work with Rumi, a Persian mystical poet, was the subject of an hour-long segment on Bill Moyers's Language of Life series on PBS, and he is a featured poet and translator in Bill Moyers's poetry special, "Fooling with Words." Dr. Barks makes frequent international appearances and is well-known throughout the Middle East. His work has contributed to an extremely strong following of Rumi in the English-speaking world. Dr. Barks received his Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an honorary doctorate from Tehran University in 2006, and in March 2009 was inducted to the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mosaic Art Show Opening March 28

I will have two pieces in a mosaic show that opens on March 28th as the Schwamb Mill (I've added a link to the Facebook page for the show).  If you're free and live near Arlington, MA, join me at the opening reception at 3:30.

In other news, I recently finished this lamp for a friend: